Backtracking on her original intent to rule on the NFL’s motion to dismiss the
consolidated concussion litigation by month’s end, U.S. District Judge Anita Brody on Monday decided instead to order the parties in the case to engage in mediation.
In her July 8 order, the veteran federal judge of the Eastern District of Pennsylvania said she would suspend her decision to rule on the defense motion until after both sides completed mediation.
The mediator Brody appointed to handle the talks is retired U.S. District Judge Layn Phillips.
Brody ordered that Phillips report back to her on or before Sept. 3 on the results of the mediation, which differs from arbitration in that there is not a measure of finality.
Brody had earlier stated she intended to rule on the dismissal motion later this month.
The multidistrict National Football League Players’ Concussion Injury Litigation, which has been consolidated at the federal courthouse in Philadelphia, consists of more than 4,000 plaintiffs who allege the National Football League intentionally misrepresented the dangers involved with concussions and other brain trauma sustained during professional play.
The player-plaintiffs contend that they were not adequately warned of the long-term health risks that come with football head injuries.
The NFL is seeking to dismiss the case over assertions that the plaintiffs’ claims are covered by the collective bargaining agreement; the players and their spouses dispute this notion, and argue the claims should be addressed in the tort system.
Both sides met for the first time at the U.S. District Court in Philadelphia back in April to present their respective arguments concerning the defendant’s motion to dismiss.
In addition to ordering mediation, this week’s court order also prevents the parties and their attorneys from publicly discussing the mediation process or disclosing any other information that may arise from mediation, unless Brody gives the OK.
The judge stated that she made her decision on mediation following a recent “informal exploratory telephone conference with lead counsel.”
According to a biography on the website of the California law firm of Irell & Manella, where Phillips, the mediator, is a partner, the retired federal judge worked at the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Los Angeles in 1980 as an assistant prosecutor, after which, at age 31, he was nominated to serve as U.S. Attorney for that district.
Three years later, at age 34, he was nominated by President Ronald Reagan to serve as a federal judge in Oklahoma City, which he did for a four-year period.
Phillips also previously sat by designation on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit in Denver, where he participated in panel decisions and penned various opinions in criminal law, business litigation and civil rights, his bio states.
Phillips is a graduate of the University of Tulsa.